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Cabo Pulmo's Victory


Cabo Pulmo wins over big development company.

This is an article from Amanda Maxwell's Blog.

We have included the article in full here and also, at the end of the article, a link to the blog.


“Victory” is a word I don’t use lightly or often.

But there are few situations I can think of for which “victory” would be more appropriate than yesterday’s landmark announcement by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to cancel the ill-conceived massive tourism project, Cabo Cortes. The project’s proponents wanted to build the equivalent of a new city next to Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, a reserve of immeasurable importance for Mexico and for the world. Cabo Pulmo contains the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortés, and for years local, national and international voices have been campaigning to protect the vulnerable marine life there from the threat of Cabo Cortés. Yesterday, just as the Rio+20 Earth Summit got underway, President Calderón demonstrated vision and leadership by cancelling the entire project.

Cabo Pulmo sign.JPG

Cabo Pulmo is a conservation success story of local, national, and international significance.  In the 1970s-80s, rampant overfishing severely degraded the reef. Local communities recognized that fact, and petitioned the government to make the area a national park, which it did in 1995. In 2005, UNESCO named Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park a World Heritage Site, and in 2008 it became a Ramsar Wetlands Site of International Importance.  

Due to these efforts, the coral reef has bounced back beyond belief. A 2011 study from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography found that the biomass of the park increased 463 percent in the decade from 1999 and 2009, and called it “most robust marine reserve in the world.” It is now home to the highest concentration of marine life in the entire Gulf of California, including more than 200 species of reef fish, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, as well as migratory species like whale sharks, Pacific manta rays, humpback whales, and dolphins. Five of the world’s seven endangered species of sea turtle use the reef as a refuge. This incredible recovery is largely due to the efforts of the local communities, who took stewardship of the park and reoriented their economies away from destructive fishing practices and towards ecotourism activities.


                                        photo courtesy of Octavio Aburto / iLCP

However, several years ago, the Spanish real estate developer Hansa Urbana laid out plans for the Cabo Cortés real estate and tourism complex. The company planned to construct 13,000 housing units, 3,655 hotel rooms (together this is equivalent to about 30,000 rooms), some 2 million square feet of office and commercial space as well as a 490-slip marina, a “private” jet port, schools, and at least two golf courses. For all practical purposes the project would have created a brand new city the size of Cancun. If it had been allowed to proceed, the project would have irreversibly damaged the reef ecosystem and wiped out local livelihoods that depend on ecotourism. 


                                      photo courtesy of Ralph Lee Hopkins / iLCP

In response to Cabo Cortés threat, local groups organized and took action. Regional and national groups joined the fight, and created a vibrant coalition called Cabo Pulmo Vivo. When Hansa Urbana stepped up its pressure on the government to approve the project, this coalition did not back down. Instead, they reached out to international groups, such as NRDC, to help protect Cabo Pulmo. Together, we made the legal, scientific, environmental, social and financial cases against the project:

  • the project’s plans and the environmental permitting process it underwent both broke municipal and national laws;
  • the construction and operation of Cabo Cortés would devastate the thriving marine life of the coral reef;
  • it would affect the fish populations that local commercial and sport fishermen depend on;
  • a resort of that size would require an incredible amount of fresh water that arid Baja California just doesn’t have;
  • and it would have been a very risky investment for anyone interested in financing the progect due to all of the above reasons and the shaky financial situations of the developer.

By all accounts and measures, Cabo Cortés was undoubtedly a problematic project that should have been rejected by the government from Day One. Yet its environmental review process, which began in 2008, went on for four years. After some legal back-and-forths between proponents and opponents of Cabo Cortés, major pieces of the overall project received their approvals in January 2011. However, a few crucial parts, such as the water treatment and desalination plants, were conditioned: the company had to provide ample additional information about them within a certain timeframe (most of the 20 conditions allowed for six months). Last week, our Mexican partners made public a memo from the Sectary of Environment and Natural Resources stating that Cabo Cortés was out of compliance with many of those conditions, providing the government with the perfect opportunity to cancel the irresponsible project altogether. President Calderón’s declaration cancelling the project is an acknowledgement of the fact that big business isn’t always the best business.


                                      photo courtesy of Ralph Lee Hopkins / iLCP

Cabo Pulmo truly is a treasure worth preserving, and a model of environmental stewardship and local economic growth worth replicating. After years of effort from many parties, yesterday’s victory –and certainly it is a victory— is remarkable news for the people of Cabo Pulmo and Mexico, and for other countries, too. It is proof that these battles can be won, and that when they are won, they have impacts far beyond the immediate area. Of course, there is still work to do to ensure that new projects similar to Cabo Cortés do not threaten Cabo Pulmo again, as surely they will, and that the region is able to grow economically and sustainably. But now is a time for celebrating – and to say “Gracias” to President Calderón for making the right decision.


To read the blog on Ms. Maxwell's site, click here.

Cabo Pulmo


Cabo Pulmo is a small community of about 100 residents, half of whom are Mexican Nationals and the other half American and Canadian "snowbirds" that have bought small lots and built themselves houses to escape their cold winters. 

Cabo pulmo mexico

The main attractions of Cabo Pulmo are its world class scuba diving and snorkeling sites. These sites include eight coral reef formations that stretch from the sandy shores to approxiamately a mile out into the sea.  Other noteworthy attractions include the village's tranquility, great local fare, quaint thatched roof bungalows, whale-watching, bird watching, miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, and of course, surfing!Cabo Pulmo diving

Cabo Pulmo was declared a National Park by the federal government 17 years ago. Since then the reef has shown a 463% increase in biomass (sea-life).  Entrance to the park requires a $5 per person fee, which is well worth it!  Kids six and under are not required to pay.

In the center of town sits Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort, often referred to as the "Hub" of town. Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort consists of 18 bungalows, a diving and snorkel center, its own restaurant and an international staff to accommodate most cultural and language barriers.  

Cabo Pulmo Beach ResortThe bungalows range from Eco Bungalows, that sleep two or three, up to the Beach House, that can accommodate nine guests comfortably.  They have fully equipped kitchens, gas BBQ grills on the patio/deck, outside hammocks and some even have a 2nd story deck. 



 The Coral Reef Restaurant is located above the dive center and reception. It boasts local and international fare that includes tasty mexican dishes, delicious pastas, steak and potatoes and of course, FRESH FISH!

describe the image

Cabo Pulmo has a flare for all types, whether you just want to realx and have a lazy day or two, or if you seek the adventures of land and sea, or maybe a couple of days of each. Whatever you choose, it's your vacation and the folks in Cabo Pulmo are always quick to offer you advise on where to go, things to do and places to visit.  

At Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort, guest won't be bothered by staff.  After check-in you are left alone to enjoy your bungalow.  Unless you request the service, no room service or cleaning staff will interrupt your stay.

You will notice that everyone waves to each other, whether they know you or not. Cabo Pulmo is a very welcoming town.

Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort has a 60% repeat customer base, the diving and snorkeling are the main reasons people keep coming back.

Jacques Cousteau called this area, the Sea of Cortez, "The Aquarium of the World".  What more can be said? 

Sea of Cortez



Cabo Pulmo / Wildcoast Salvaje / National Geographic News


October 6, 2011

"NGO questions the profitability of new tourism development in Baja California Sur (Mexico)."

EFE (Spanish News Agency with coverage in Spain and Europe) by Juan David Leal.

“The conservation organization, WiLDCOAST/ COSTASALVAjE, criticized today the Mexican Government for supporting the construction of new development in the state of Baja California Sur, in the small town of Cabo Pulmo - given the fact that several recently build projects remain abandoned or on sale (without buyers) in the region.  Director of Communications for WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, Fay Crevoshay, said to EFE, that the hotel occupation in Baja California Sur, which is an important tourism region where Los Cabos and La Paz are located “is not very high” and yet the Mexican authorities award new construction permits.  According to official data, Los Cabos, a main tourism destination for Baja California Sur, with more than 10,000 hotel rooms, closed the year 2009 with 56% occupation and 2010 with 60%.

WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, in conjunction with Greenpeace, WWF, Niparaja, ProNatura, and Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo are opposed to the tourism Project Cabo Cortes which is being built by the construction company Hansa Urbana, because they fear it will affect Cabo Pulmo, the only coral reef in the Gulf of California.”

November 10, 2011  "Plans for Resort in Mexico Ignite Concern about Reef"

Washington Post By William Booth

“CABO PULMO, Mexico — where once the local waters were almost barren of life, there are now vast schools of randy and spawning big-eyed jacks. The grouper lurking in the thriving coral have reached the size of overindulged toddlers. The tiger sharks are big enough to star in scary movies. The nesting turtles, devil rays and sea lions have returned, too, alongside a few tourists wearing flippers and masks.  Marine scientists express pure astonishment at what has happened in the 16 years since Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park was created at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California state, 60 miles north of Cabo San Lucas.

In August, researchers reported that the biomass of fish in the no-take marine reserve had increased by an unprecedented 463 percent in 10 years, offering hope that, if just left alone for a little while, the planet’s depleted seas can rebound.

But all is not well in Cabo Pulmo.  These days, the talk in the little solar-powered village of 200 Mexicans and expats is not the vigor of the reefs but, of all things, the European debt crisis”

To read full article [in English], please click here.


November 17, 2011  "NGOs working to protect Cabo Pulmo"  WiLDCOAST News Center

"On November 15th, 2011, NGO groups presented in La Paz, Mexico to a joint mission of UNESCO, RAMSAR (Convention for Wetlands of International Importance) and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) on the current development threats to Cabo Pulmo. AIDA, CEMDA, WiLDCOAST, Greenpeace, Niparaja, Amigos para la Conservacion de Cabo Pulmo, NRDC, ProNatura, Cabet Cultura y Desarrollo, and Iemanya presented their arguments for the protection of Cabo Pulmo.  Although there are many reasons to protect this globally unique coastal and marine ecosystem, the underlying message was clear:  the Cabo Cortés development would devastate the remarkable marine life in Cabo Pulmo as well as the local communities".

To read the full article in English, please click here.


November 16th, 17th, and 18th  Special Series about CABO PULMO on Televisa.

Mexico’s largest broadcasting corporation Televisa aired a feature story on Cabo Pulmo National Martine Park in Baja California Sur, Mexico. This three part series included an in-depth explanation about threats facing the Marine Park’s reef as a result of the proposed mega development of Cabo Cortes. Featured interviews included Cabo Pulmo residents, WiLDCOAST, Greenpeace, CEMDA, as well as the developers of Cabo Cortes.  In an interesting and confrontational dialogue, Star reporter Mario Alberto Tinoco Valderama challenged Mexican authorities from the Ministry of the Environment about the permits granted to developers, despite internal opposition from their scientists and an inadequate environmental impact assessment.  The series on Cabo Pulmo aired for three days on national prime time in the morning news program “Primero Noticias,” with Carlos Loret.  Additionally, the broadcasting of the story coincided with the arrival of the Special Joint Mission of representatives from The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and Convention for Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR)to support further protections for the park.  The three part story is called “Destroying Paradise” and uncovers a staged strategy between the Mexican Ministry for Environmental Protection and Spanish developers Hansa Urbana. The piece also describes the illegal construction permits and ill planned marina, golf course and housing development that will surely threaten the most robust marine reserve on the planet.

Aboutuspic5To see the three videos in Spanish, please click on each link: First Part, Second Part, Third Part



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